Jockey Jose Santos, meeting with media Friday.

Jockey Jose Santos, meeting with media Friday.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Santos Confident Heading into Preakness

Declaring the controversy over the "phantom photo" was completely behind him, jockey Jose Santos said he was confident going into the Preakness Stakes aboard Kentucky Derby victor Funny Cide.

Speaking with reporters in the Pimlico jockeys' room Friday afternoon, Santos said, "I'm riding really strong right now, winning races at Belmont and showing everyone there was nothing in my hand but the whip. I'm doing well, and this whole incident is making me try harder. Winning the Derby was great, but the controversy was embarrassing."

Santos thought that Peace Rules represents the main threat to Funny Cide's quest to take the second leg of racing's Triple Crown. He was happy with his mount's post position outside most of the field, and said "whoever handles the muddy track will be the winner.

Santos had a terse "no comment" in response to a question about his plans for possible legal action against the parties responsible for putting his Derby ride under suspicion.

Looking ahead to the Preakness, Santos said, "It's going to mean a lot for me and all the connections to win this race. It's a sentimental thing. Tomorrow is a top day in racing and I have a lot of confidence in Funny Cide, in (trainer) Barclay Tagg, and in myself. We will get together later today and see how we want to ride the race. Barclay used to be based here and he will know the best place to be during the race."

Referring back to the Derby, Santos noted that "anyone who watched the race knew I was clean. I was switching the whip from one hand to the other. I would have had to be a magician to have something in my hand. We worked hard, my agent and family, to piece together pictures that proved I was clean. In two hours we had the evidence."